Saturday, May 31, 2008

Martian Manhunter in the 1960s

At the dawn of the 1960's, the existence of a Manhunter from Mars became public knowledge, and the strip itself drifted ever further from its roots as a sci-fi police drama. The Martian Manhunter served as a founding member of the enormously popular Justice League of America, fully embracing his new status as a super-hero. J'onn J'onzz also became one-half of the first super-hero "team-up" in "The Brave and the Bold." However, in the midst of this revival, the Manhunter's home title, Detective Comics, slipped closer to cancellation. Julius Schwartz took over editing duties on the book, and replaced the Manhunter from Mars feature with Ralph Dibney, the Elongated Man.

Outgoing editor Jack Schiff took the former Batman villain Professor Arnold Hugo and new Manhunter sidekick Zook with him to "House of Mystery," where J'onn J'onzz would star. The Detective John Jones identity was "killed-off," with J'onn J'onzz taking on the crusade of tracking down the elusive Diabolu Idol-Head. When that failed to reach an audience, Robby Reed and "Dial 'H' for Hero" pushed J'onn J'onzz to back-up status once again. J'onzz assumed the new identity of "Marco Xavier," and pursued the international criminal organization VULTURE. By the end of the decade, both Reed and J'onzz had been evicted from "House of Mystery." Further, the Martian Manhunter had been written out of "Justice League of America," and was left with nowhere to go but into obscurity.


#28: "Starro The Conqueror!"
#29: “Challenge of the Weapons Master!”
#30: “Case of the Stolen Super Powers!”

#276: “The Crimes of J'onn J'onzz”
#277: "The Menace of Mr. Moth"
#279: "The Impossible Inventions"
#280: "Bodyguard to a Bandit"

#1: “The World of No Return!”


#306: “The Last Days of J’onn J’onzz”


#50: "Wanted--The Capsule Master!"

#322: "The Man Who Destroyed J'onn J'onzz"


>>>Idol-Head in the House of Mystery
#144: "The Weird World of Gilgana"
#145: "Secret of the Purple People"
#146: "The Doom Shadow"
#147: "The Orchestra of Doom!"

#31: "Riddle of the Runaway Room"


#148: "The Beings in the Color Rings"
#149: "The Man-Thing That Unearthed Secrets"
#150: "The Supernatural Masterpieces!"
#152: "Iwangis--Creature King"
#153: "The Giants Who Slept 1,000,000 Years”
#154: "The Mirror Martian Manhunter"
#155: "The Giant Genie of Gensu"

#33: "Enemy From The Timeless World!"
#36: "The Case of the Disabled Justice League"
#37-38: "Crisis On Earth-A"


#157: "Manhunter, World's Greatest Clown!"
#158: "The Origin of the Diabolu Idol-Head"
#159: "The Devil Men of Pluto!"
>>>Xavier... Marco Xavier...
#160: "Manhunter's New Secret Identity"
#161: “The Unmasking of Marco Xavier!”
#162: “The Lair of Mr. V!”
#163 "The Doomed Captive!"


#164: "Marco Vs. Manhunter”
#165" “The Deadly Martian!”
#166: "Vulture’s Crime Goliaths!"
#167: "Marco Xavier, Manhunter's Ally!"
#168: "Thantos-- the 3-In-1 Man!"
#169: "The Manhunter Monster!"
#170: "The Martian Double-Cross!"
#171: "The Martian Marauders"


#365: "Superman's Funeral!"
#366: "The Substitute Superman!"

#172: "Manhunter's Stolen Identity!"
#173: "So You're Faceless!"

#6: "How To Make A Bomb"



#71: "...And So My World Ends!"

Current as of 4/22/10

Friday, May 30, 2008

The J'Onn J'Onzz Memorial Service

Art by Sal Velluto

Who's your favorite JLA member?
"Martian Manhunter" -JLA inker John Dell
"Flash and Martian Manhunter" -JLA editor Ruben Diaz

Jenette Kahn (Speaking of JLI creator Keith Giffen)
"Keith's favorite is J'onn J'onzz.39"

Oliver Queen (Green Arrow)
"J'Onn J'Onzz. The Martian Manhunter. My old friend from the Justice League. We shared some serious times...I did wonder whether J'Onn and the others weren't humoring me sometimes... I never liked being called a hero. I just do what I think is right. Try to make a difference... J'Onn's a real hero.1"

"...Manhunter! It was great being teamed with you... Earth's lucky to have you on it's side!2"

Sal Velluto (Artist)
"To me, the Martian Manhunter is a man endowed with incredible powers and a lot of wisdom. Being from outer space, he can look at our Earthly problems from a universal perspective.8"

Orin/Arthur Curry (Aquaman)
"During the Earth-Mars War, the League fought at half strength... and it was only through the aid of J'Onn J'Onzz that the Martian attack was eventually turned back.3"

"He's the very heart and soul of the League!4"

Paul Kupperberg (Writer/Editor)
"I really don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer or didn’t read comics... I’ve got buried, way deep in the back of an old filing cabinet the comics I used to write and draw when I was seven, eight years old, with characters like Martian Manhunter, the Atom, Daredevil, the Justice League, and a TV show I really loved called Rescue 8... I was reading Wonder Woman when I was six years old because I liked the Andru and Esposito art, I devoured the Jack Schiff Batman stories, Martian Manhunter... This stuff was iconic and huge to me... MM was always my guilty pleasure DC character--28"

Bruce Wayne (Batman)
"J'Onn can handle it. J'Onn J'Onzz has been at this game longer than I have... He's the only member of this team I don't feel I have to nursemaid!6"

“He has a fine tactical mind. He’s been with the Justice League since the beginning and he understands group dynamics better than anyone I’ve ever met.7

"Sometimes I forget your talent for speaking in enigmas, John.5"

"Life is what it is, J'Onn... and what it is is hell. And sometimes it's far worse than that. You've handled more than most.10"

Ted Kord (Blue Beetle)
“God, he gets more like Batman every day.13

Phil Morris (Actor, on playing "John Jones")
"I honor it. This has been a dream come true for me. I love working as the Martian Manhunter. I love that I have superpowers and that I can fly. In the DC Universe, I'm second in power only to Superman... I was telling Whitney Ransick, our director, to keep me grounded. I know J'onn J'onzz, and he's not prone to hyperbole. He's just real. He speaks to you like I'm speaking to you.12"

"I'm a fan of all the DC Universe characters, and Martian Manhunter, to me - it's weird to say this - but he's one of the most humane of all the DC Universe characters. Odd that he's from Mars, but he has such a great sense of compassion, such a great sense of humanity. So yeah, I'm a big fan of Martian Manhunter.11"

Stuart Immonen (Artist, on his first professional work)
"The Martian Manhunter was a fun character over in JLA– I just tried to pick a character I thought I could do well.14"

Kyle Rayner (Green Lantern)
"Batman... gives me the creeps. He could probably wipe up the floor with [the JLA]... J'Onn J'Onzz... spooks me more than Batman... Aquaman's surly if he's in a good mood, and Batman's just plain frightening. But at least they're both human. At least I think Batman's human. J'Onn's... not. And the green skin and that brow aren't what's alien about him. He seems so detached... cold... Don't get me wrong, I respect J'Onn... He's really the next best thing to Superman, and he's been a hero forever. He just gives me the willies, that's all... What do you say to a Martian?15"

Darwyn Cooke (Writer/Artist)
"THE MARTIAN MANHUNTER surprised me and turned out to be one of my favorite characters to write.16"

Steve Vance (Writer)
"I have a particular fondness for Martian Manhunter. He's a character that has been around for so long but has had relatively little exposure. He's under-utilized and an intriguing guy, so I'm particularly looking forward to him."

Nathaniel Adam (Captain Atom/Monarch)
"Y'know, I can't figure him out. He seems so cold-- and yet, I can't help feeling that underneath it all he's enjoying some very private joke.17"

Darryl Banks (Artist)
"At one point I'd go, 'Oh, I get to draw the Justice League and this is so daunting. I've got to focus.' But really, it was more like, 'I can handle this.' ...But the one I had the most fun with hands down was Martian Manhunter. I just loved drawing that guy. Man, I'd consider doing a fill-in issue of that book. He's just a great character. I'd like to see him appear again (in Green Lanternm,) even if it's just him in the team-up. The Green Team, right?18"

Scott Free (Mister Miracle)
"The Manhunter's a complicated guy. I've given up trying to understand it. I just relax and enjoy him.17"

Alan Moore (Writer)
"When Dick Giordano had acquired the Charlton line, Dave Gibbons and I were talking about doing something together... One of the first ideas was that perhaps we should do a Challengers of the Unknown mini-series, and somewhere I've got a rough penciled cover for a Martian Manhunter mini-series, but I think it was the usual thing: Other people were developing projects regarding those characters, so DC didn't want us to use them.20"

Robert Greenberger (Writer/Historian)
"Finally, in the 1980's, J'onn J'onzz's role in the DC Universe was at last clearly defined. The 1987 launch of JUSTICE LEAGUE, under writers J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, saw him become the heart and soul of the team. It's a role he's continued to play, both in JLA and in the pages of the monthly MARTIAN MANHUNTER. Even today, there are few heroes with more complex histories or personalities than the Manhunter from Mars.19"

Wally West (The Flash)
"Sometimes dead is dead and J'Onn is dead! And he was a hero...21"

"He's the Jolly Green Buddha, for crying out loud!23"

“Sometimes he spooks me, too... All those years living among us... and no matter how much he blends, he’s still an alien.”41

“I mean, how can you trust a shape-changer?22

Eel O'Brien (Plastic Man)
“I beg your pardon! You wouldn’t have the guts to say that if the Martian Manhunter was here!22

"We need at least one grownup to look after the newbies, huh?25"

Christopher Priest (Writer)
"Like my take on THE BLACK PANTHER, I see The Martian Manhunter as an enigmatic stranger among us. A man of many faces and many lives, there is no reason why J'Onn should be generic or bland or just The Green Guy Standing In Back of the JLA Eating Oreo Cookies.26"

Orion (New God)
“Martian! …I have come to respect you…27"

Howard Porter (Artist, with Matthew Senreich and Andrew Kardon)
Porter's favorite character to draw is the Martian Manhunter. "I feel I have more freedom with the Martian Manhunter than the others." "And he's just plain fun to draw because he is something different.29"

Porter describes the Martian Manhunter as a low-key character who is always around and willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the team. "He's strong. He's almost the soul of the team.29"

"I like the visuals of [the Martian Manhunter,] and I like his character the most. He's real mysterious, not overexposed. The big brow is cool. Real classic costume.30"

Kara Zor-El (Supergirl)
"He's always been a friend!31"

Clark Kent/Kal-El (Superman)
“J’Onn’s very astute, don’t you think?7

"...One very special friend.32"

"The man's a hero in the truest sense of the word--33"

"As always... it's my honor to fight with you, J'Onn.42"

"I can count on one hand the number of beings in the known universe I would be afraid to face in open combat. J'Onn J'Onzz is at the top of that list. He is the most powerful being on the face of the Earth.23"

"I've known J'Onn J'Onzz for more years than I'd care to count. And there are few men--on any world--I respect...and trust...more than him."

"He's a kind soul, J'Onn. Generous. Sensitive in ways we won't ever be able to imagine.24"

"J'Onn... Just remember-- you aren't alone. There isn't a member of the League, past or present, who wouldn't be willing to lend you a hand at any time. Because... you are the League-- perhaps more than any of us. Come back safely-- and soon.34"

John Ostrander (Writer)
"First and foremost, the concept of J'onn J'onzz is that of duality. J'onn is a manhunter, but he is also a philosopher. In Martian society that was expected... So duality is in J'onn's culture and upbringing, so it comes as no surprise that there is a duality about him. He presents himself as a warrior, but he's also one of the gentler souls on the planet. He occasionally presents himself as human, but he's alien. He's this alien being and at the very core he will always be alien.

The Manhunter is odd because he's one of the oldest DC characters in terms of being around, yet he's one of the least defined of the DC characters... What I keep on hearing from the letters coming in is, 'I'm so glad you're doing Martian Manhunter - he's always been my favorite.' So there's been a lot of goodwill connected to J'onn with this series so far. For a long time, J'onn was treated as a green Superman and therefore not very compelling.

J'onn seems to be the heart and soul of the League in many ways. He has been important to holding the League together on more than one occasion and at the same time, we've learned just how the League has been important to him. As the last of his race, the JLA is J'onn's family, the people who he feels the most similarity to. He shares many similarities with Superman, being the last of his race, but at the same time, shares much in common with Wonder Woman and Aquaman who have the same 'stranger in a strange land feel' as J'onn. Those that have known him the longest have a vast respect for him, while some of the younger heroes have to learn that there's hardly anyone more trustworthy in the League than J'onn.35"

"Two facts are tied to the essence of the character for me. One, he's an alien. Far more than Superman is an alien, J'onn J'onzz is an alien. He comes with a different mind set but he is also an observer of Earth customs. Through his eyes, the world can seem new to us. Watch a kid, such as a 6-year-old. Watch how they discover things that we take for granted. In the wonder in a child, we see things afresh. I'd like that be true of J'onn.

Two, he's a manhunter. A policeman. He's pro-active rather than reactive. He goes after the bad guys rather than wait for them to come to him. It's inherent in the name.18"

Mari McCabe (The Vixen)
"Thank you, J'Onn.37"

Valerie D'Orazio (Assistant Editor/Columnist)
"Martian Manhunter was known around the offices as a character that was sort of boring, but was a JLA "staple," if you will (though we did try to jazz him up with that storyline where he was Scorch's love-slave).36"

Gail Simone (Writer, also speaking for Devin Grayson)
"This is going to sound pathetic, but I never 'got' J'onn until I wrote him. The same thing to a lesser degree with Superman, the Mad Hatter, even Wonder Woman to a smaller degree still. I never really ADORED them until I had to write their dialog and then it was just BAM, instant love.

Devin Grayson told me the same thing about J'onn.

It's not that I think I'm so brilliant, all the great stuff was already there, it's just that I'd never taken the time to look inside his head. Now I adore him.9"

Cindy Reynolds (Gypsy)
"As long as I have you-- I'll always have a family.10"

"--Don't-- don't leave me-- again-- J'Onn--38"

Grant Morrison (Writer)
"When I talk with other writers about the JLA, a lot of them tell me they don't like the Martian Manhunter, and think that if there was going to be a story where someone betrays the JLA, then he's the guy who would do it. I see him much differently. If someone was to betray the JLA, he's the last person who would do it. He's the keeper of the flame for everything the JLA represents.

He's remote from the others, but at the same time, completely dedicated to what they represent, like honor, truth, and justice. He's the last of his tribe, a noble warrior who has seen everything he loved taken from him, but he's dealt with it. Now his life has meaning via the JLA, which is the closest thing he has to a family. He's in with the League for the long haul.29"

Barry Allen (The Flash)
“J’Onn. You are unchanged. You are unchanging. You give life where there is death, ever true to yourself. Goodbye, my friend.41

J.M. DeMatteis (Writer)
"As I sat writing...putting words, for the last time, into the mouths of Oberon and Max and Fire and Ice and Guy and --my two personal favorites-- J'onn and Beetle, I felt a genuine sadness... No regrets. But I'm going to miss those guys.40"

1 Green Arrow #88; 2 The Brave & The Bold #50; 3 JLofA #239; 4 Martian Manhunter #6; 5 Detective Comics #715, 6 JLI #6, 7 JLA #2; 8 Wizard Magazine #22; 9 CBR Message Board; 10 JLI #42; 11 KryptonSite Interview; 12 TV; 13 JLQ #1; 14 Sequential; 15 Green Lantern #87; 16 Absolute DC: The New Frontier; 17 JLI #8; 18 -Comics; 19 Millennium Edition: Detective Comics #225 ; 20 Comic Book Artist #9; 21 Martian Manhunter #8 ; 22 JLA #92, 23 JLA #86; 24 JLA #85; 25 DC One Million #1; 26 Digital; 27 JLI #50; 28 Aquaman; 29 Wizard's JLA Special 1997 ; 30 Wizard's JLA Special 1998; 31 Adventure Comics #450; 32 Action Comics #595; 33 DC Comics Presents #27 ; 34 Martian Manhunter #0 ; 35; 36 Occasional; 37 Suicide Squad #13; 38 JLTF #20; 39 1988 Publishorial; 40 1992 letter column JLA: Incarnations #5; 41 Scary Monsters #3 (July 2003); 42 JLA Classified #18

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Goodbye J'Onn...

... say hi to Steve Rogers for us in the afterlife, if he's still there himself. We all know we'll be seeing you both again, likely sooner than later.

Welcome to everyone visiting the Idol-Head of Diabolu Martian Manhunter Memorial Blog. A bit of a mouthful, but again, it's only temporary. Things will be a bit different around here for the next several weeks, so I thought I'd address the upcoming changes today.

In honor of J'Onn J'Onzz's memory, we'll be spotlighting only the best of his stories for most of June. I'll be avoiding books that are tied to specific continuity, so for instance, no sign of the first Martian Manhunter mini-series and related spotlight tales. The synopsis for Justice League International issues will be starting here in the next few months, and I don't want to pull an important story out of context like that. The same goes for the entirety of Christopher Priest's run on Justice League Task Force, excellent stories that contributed greatly to Manhunter's later characterization in JLA, and added to his circle of friends and foes. However, they're also part of a fairly dense tapestry that doesn't really allow for a patch to be ripped out. Extended arcs like "JLA Year One" and most of the Martian Manhunter solo series are also set aside for space considerations.

Another high water mark was "The End of the Justice League of America," which should be part of our ongoing "Justice League Detroit" coverage. Again though, we're a whole story arc separated from that at present, plus "Legends" would factor in heavily, so that's out. That also means there will be no "Detroit" coverage here for a number of weeks. Fans can instead check our "Justice League Detroit: The Blog" for weekly updates in the meantime. As of today, you can read about Steel: The Indestructible Man #1.

Tomorrow, we'll have our memorial service, allowing fellow heroes the chance to offer their remembrance of J'Onn J'Onzz. Starting Sunday will be a series of posts on what I feel is the best Martian Manhunter story ever written, and we'll close the week with another personal favorite. Hope it eases the pain until the next crossover, which promises the return of Jor-El for a team-up with Ben Parker...


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: DR. TRAP

Doctor Trap was born the day his wife died in a battle between the heroic Justice Experience and the villainous House of Pain. Over twenty-four years ago, Coroline Anders tried to run for cover when these groups fought within the Washington Square Subway Station in New York City. She slipped off a platform, and was electrocuted by the third rail. Her husband was deformed from birth, an outcast who never believed he could find someone to love him. An eccentric genius, Trap vowed revenge on all the superbeings he blamed for taking away the only love of his life.

A brilliant mechanical engineer, Dr. Trap created a variety of vicious devices, which he used to slay at least thirty-five super-beings in the New York, Metropolis and Gotham areas. There are conflicting reports as to who was his first victim, but it is believed he initially struck the Experience's most powerful sometimes member, The Bronze Wraith. Better known today as the Manhunter from Mars, "Bronze Wraith" was left an amnesiac by this gambit. Doctor Trap was then free to murderer the individual members of the groups involved in his wife's death, as well as other metahumans in no way involved. Trap's murder spree lasted two years before he was captured by the Justice Society of America, with the aid of the recovered "Bronze Wraith."

Decades later, Trapp used vague “connections” within the Cadmus Project to contact the psychic “vampire” Bette Noir. The Doctor ordered her physical body to be killed, but allowed Noir entry into his mind as a safe harbor until she could find a more permanent residence. Trapp then waited until his lawyers could press for his release from his lengthy incarceration, drawing the attention of J’Onn J’Onzz. Convincing the Martian to scan his mind and prove he had moved beyond his bloodlust, Doctor Trap instead forced Bette Noir to incapacitate the Manhunter via a psychic loop of his most painful memories. Trap escaped custody as the Manhunter struggled with his new condition, then re-outfitted himself to pursue the daughter of his first murder victim, D.E.O. agent Cameron Chase. The pride of the Acro-Bat laid a trap of her own, but the barrel of her firearm was bitten off by the Doctor’s mechanical jaw. The Sleuth from Outer Space deduced Trap’s destination, however, and convinced Bette Noir to do unto the Doctor as she had done unto him. Trap was turned over to police custody, where he presumably is still serving twenty-three life terms.

Real Name: Larry Trapp
Occupation: Inmate, Former mechanical engineer and serial killer
Group Affiliation: None
Base of Operations: Riker's Island Prison, NY
First Appearance: Chase #3 (April 1998)
Height: Approx. 5'10"
Weight: Approximately 160-170 lbs.
Eyes: Light Brown
Hair: None
Powers: None

Distinguishing Features: Dr. Trap's jaw and mouth have been replaced by hinged steel "teeth" that resemble a bear trap. This device is capable of tearing out a human throat. Also, Trapp was thirty-seven years old at the time of his capture, making his rather fit for a fellow now in his sixties.

Quote: "An elaborate trap with no ending. I anticipated every step and now he will know torment... as I have known it ever since my wife died at the hands of him and his ilk."

Created by: Dan Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III

See Also:
2010 Doctor Trap Commission by Andy Kuhn

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chase #6 (July 1998)

After nearly two months recovering from injuries sustained from a wall falling on her during a super-hero battle, D.E.O. agent Cameron Chase was planning her return to active duty. Out shopping with her sister Terry, Chase stopped off at her Department of Extranormal Operations office. There the hero-hater found a complete set of "JLA Big Guns" mylar balloons, a gag gift. On the way out, Cameron and Terry's elevator stopped and went dark. A "Clay-Thing" creature had gotten loose on another floor, stranding the sisters in the resultant power failure.

Terry happily read her "Herotab," a metahuman tabloid, by emergency light. She began sharing tawdry tales of double lives from the magazine with her agitated sister, who finally smacked it from her grasp. "What's so goofy about wondering who your father is, huh? What's goofy about all these masks hiding their activities from their friends, their co-workers-- their own families? People who trust them and think they know them... it happens all the time, Terry. It happened to us. I'm talking about Dad, Terry. Dad was one of them."

"What are you talking about? Dad was a school teacher, just like mom."
"Yes, he was, but he was also a costumed vigilante... I'm not joking, Terry... I'm sorry you never heard any of this before. Mom keeps saying she'll tell you... but I guess it's up to me to do her job. As usual."

There was a lull in 'superhero' activity by the time the sixties rolled around. The JSA had started to move into retirement. There were fewer and fewer genuine threats to the world anymore--except for the Cold War, which a lot of the old heroes actively supported. So into the gap came a new breed of heroes and villains. Nature abhors a vacuum, I guess. For the most part, they were young baby-boomers, just coming into adulthood. On the West Coast, the Love Generation was discovering acid on the Haight, but back East, they were discovering hoods and masks on the rooftops and the back alleys of The Village. They came up with silly names, made silly costumes, and played a grown-up version of cops and robbers in a landscape of oversized toy props and silly 'deathtraps.' Dad-- the 'Acro-Bat'-- was one of them.

I guess he started solo, but eventually he established a team with some others. They called themselves the Justice Experience. Maybe they thought they were paying tribute to the JSA and its legacy. I don't think they ever realized what pale imitations they were of the originals... but I guess it's the thought that counts."

As described by Cameron Chase, the Justice Experience and their kind were inconsequential thrill-seekers, which helped explain why those characters would be completely forgotten today. The Acro-Bat was joined by Mister Action, The Manx, Major Flashback, Song Bird, and The Bronze Wraith. At the time, the Chase family was living in Gotham at "the little house on McMillan Drive." Chase and her mother resented her father's constant nightly absence. "When I was born, that should have been the end of it, but it wasn't... Five years later, when you came along, it was no different. He was around so rarely, I hardly ever saw him. Sometimes, I can't even remember what he looked like... except for pictures."

Terry had never heard of the Experience, to which Cameron chided, "what do you know about superheroes from twenty years ago?" Besides which, they were all dead now. Dr. Trap had seen to that, beginning with the Acro-Bat. "When Dad got home, Trapp surprised him in the living room. He... caught Dad... and... he'd made a set of steel jaws for his mouth... and... I... found the body... on the floor... The press called him 'Doctor Trap' every time he claimed another victim, because any time they found his newest lair, it was booby-trapped. Guillotines. Piano wire. Mustard gas. Claymore mines. They never had a chance... it was the end of an era. Super-heroes didn't make a comeback for another ten years... You weren't even two yet. Slept through the whole thing. We moved out west after that."

Terry and Cameron were eventually released from the elevator, though the emotional toll lingered. Director Bones had hoped to talk to Agent Chase about an assignment in Gotham City, to learn the identity of the Batman, but her superior Agent Barrett had already seen her out. "Mmmmm. A pity. Monday, then."

The Justice Experience, as with most characters related to the "Chase" series, were created by D. Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III. "Martian Manhunter" ongoing series writer John Ostrander later decided to retroactively make the Bronze Wraith an early alias of J'Onn J'Onzz. MM artist Tom Mandrake altered the Wraith's mysterious purple-cowled form to resemble a garish Halloween costume version of Manhunter's current appearance, while Ostrander altered the group's story to fit his needs. D.C. Johnson later stated online that he had his own plans in mind for the Wraith, but the changes Ostrander made forced him to abandon them.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Martian Manhunter in the 1950's

The original Manhunter from Mars, Roh Kar, was introduced in a 1953 Batman story by Edmond Hamilton and Lew Schwartz. Two years later, elements of the story were reused in an ongoing series of back-up stories for Detective Comics called "John Jones, the Manhunter from Mars." The first few installments were written Joe Samachson, before being turned over to Dave Wood, and finally Jack Miller. Joe Certa drew every solo John Jones story for thirteen straight years, usually from a Miller script. John Jones was a plainclothes police detective who used extra-terrestrial powers to help solve crimes both mundane and fantastic. By 1958, super-heroes were coming back into vogue, and John Jones was increasingly seen in his costumed alien alter ego of J'onn J'onzz. Even still, he rarely fought what could be considered super-villains, sticking mostly to gangsters and the occasional alien invaders, though more science fantasy elements crept in. The stories tended to be breezy, brainless fare; not to be taken at all seriously, but not without their absurd charms, either. The final story of the 1950's starred a foe called "The Human Flame," and would herald the Martian Manhunter's being fully embraced by the super-hero community in the coming decade.

Roh Kar, First Lawman of Mars
BATMAN #78: "The Manhunter From Mars"

#225: "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel"
#226: "The Case of the Magic Baseball"

#227: "The Man With 20 Lives"
#228: "Escape To The Stars"
#229: "The Phantom Bodyguard"
#230: "The Sleuth Without A Clue"
#231: "The Thief Who Had Super Powers!"
#232: "The Dog With A Martian Master"
#233: "The Ghost From Outer Space"
#234: "The Martian Convict"
#235: "The World's Greatest Magician"
#236: "The Great Earth-Mars Mystery"
#237: "The Sleuth Who Went to Jail"
#238: "Earth Detective For A Day"

#264: “The Menace of the Martian Weapons!”
#273: “The Unmasking of J'onn J'onzz”

Current as of 4/22/10

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Justice League 1.7: The Enemy Below, Part Two (12/10/01)

Disclaimer: Knowing full well there is a wealth of resources available to fans of the "Justice League" animated series, I have no intention of doing a bunch of dry story synopsis with the occasional new screen grab. I will chronicle, within reason, J'Onn J'Onzz's specific journey over the course of the series, but chiefly I will be reviewing the episodes through my own jaundiced perceptions.

Martian Manhunter and friends follow Aquaman under the sea, where they engage Atlantean warcraft. J'Onzz allowed a pursuer to pass through him and into a reef. The entire League was then taken out by a mine field, and had power dampeners placed on their heads before being committed to execution by drowning. In the commentary track for the DVD of this season, actual creators from the show (not including its writer) ripped into this "bogus" and arbitrary turn of fortune. "This doesn't make any sense. People who live underwater-- they would have this drowning chamber?" They were rescued by Mera after conveniently being left with only two inattentive guards. Martian Manhunter and the others search the place, but find no sign of scion or son.

In full Dr. Evil mode, Orm decides to kill Aquaman and his son by chaining them to a rock. It was previously established Orm had the hots for Mera, which explains why she was left to save the League. Aquaman managed to get one of his hands free, but to save himself and child, he has to cut off his other hand with his belt buckle. I guess its better than the piranha from the comics, and certainly more heroic, but the logistics are still kind of stupid. More so, after spending all that time establishing Aquaman as a badass king with a hi-tech army, he gets a stupid harpoon grafted onto his numb? For serious? Time might have been short for a cooler prosthetic, but only a mostly indigent madman (like the one Peter David wrote when the harpoon was introduced in comics) would consider such a nutty replacement. A better writer could have explained my issues away, but Kevin Hopps wasn't that guy.

The League follows Orm's forces to where the villains are attempting to melt the polar ice caps to flood Earth. Martian Manhunter saves what appears to be the exact same Atlantean who had pursued him earlier from another jet ski collision, only to drop him a 100 feet are so back into the icy waters. Namor rides a whale into an Atlantean troop, almost as Aquaman might have, but without a clear indication of having commanded the sea life. Namor then battles Orm to the death and retakes Atlantis.

The voice actor for Namor, Scott Rummell,is better than any of the actual Justice League members'. He could have stood to have been a bit more haughty, and it wouldn't have killed them to throw us at least one "Imperious Rex," but otherwise a solid showing. I guess when they finally promoted the Avenging Prince to a full-on king, they had to show his having gained some maturity. Unlike the namby-pamby Poseidonians at DC, the Marvel Atlanteans are at their war-mongering, surface-world hating best in this episode. I hate that they lack their blue skin and breathing apparatus, but they are otherwise quite similar to those Fantastic Four classics you know and love.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Justice League 1.6: The Enemy Below, Part 1 (12/3/01)

Disclaimer: Knowing full well there is a wealth of resources available to fans of the "Justice League" animated series, I have no intention of doing a bunch of dry story synopsis with the occasional new screen grab. I will chronicle, within reason, J'Onn J'Onzz's specific journey over the course of the series, but chiefly I will be reviewing the episodes through my own jaundiced perceptions.

That disclaimer has never before been more true than in this edition. You see, I recall much positive word of mouth from when this Aquaman-related episode first broadcast, and in the years since it seems to have settled into a favorite story of the first season. Too bad it's so awful. The show starts with a 007-style pre-credit sinking of a nuclear sub by Atlantean forces under the command of Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Where in later seasons the JL crew were wonderful about finding the essential appeal of the various heroes they showcased, the first season was all about taking liberties with characters to shoehorn them into a team setting intended for general audiences. I don't understand what demographic they thought hey were appealing to in giving Namor long blond hair, though. The facial hair was also best left to the Jae Lee/90's boondoggle, as well. The pointy ears are present, but in place of winged feet are a couple flippers. I do recognize though that the speedo might not translate well, and his armor does reflect the Kirby stylings of Sub-Mariner's Silver Age appearances, so I guess I can let that slide. He does eventually go shirtless as expected, after all. The earrings are just bad all over.

They introduce lots of political intrigue and backstabbing of the sort you expect in Namor's kingdom, including a scheming sibling. Curiously, they named the usurping kin "Orm," an obvious in-joke for DC fans, as that is the secret identity of Aquaman's villainous half-brother Ocean Master. However, Orm wasn't actually Atlantean, but an air-breather. He practiced sorcery, had black hair instead of brown, facial hair, and a distinct costume. Also, they have Orm trying to kill Namor's son, where with Aquaman, that was exclusively Black Manta's territory. Less amusing was the addition of the aforementioned infant son, plus a red-haired bride. This bride wears a different costume, has no powers, and is mostly a simpering wimp, so no additional confusion with Mera there.

As for Martian Manhunter, he first shows up in silhouette at a satellite viewing deck, listening to Green Lantern and Wonder Woman debate what right Namor had to his attack on the submarine. At Superman's prodding, Namor takes his case to the World Assembly, though with the property damage and arrogant posturing you know has to follow whenever the Sub-Mariner visits New York. The Justice League joins the debate, only to watch as Namor is nearly assassinated by Deadshot. Manhunter looks on as Aquaman is hospitalized, with no sign of their previous friendship from the comics. In fact, I don't recall if J'Onn J'Onzz spoke a word of dialogue until very near the end of the first episode, when he impersonates Aquaman to draw Deadshot out of hiding, "Perfectly." Deadshot looked to have been a proxy for Deathstroke though, as his extensive use of booby traps fells Superman and hinders the rest of the League to a degree Floyd Lawton couldn't have possibly. J'Onn's becoming an immaterial wraith affords him some leeway, but loses him his shot at capturing Deadshot. That victory was ultimately reserved for the recovered Man of Steel. Despite panning to Wonder Woman's hip, when Deadshot refuses to name his client, neither the Lasso of Truth not Martian telepathy come into play. Instead, it's a harsh word from Batman that incredulously makes him crack. Worse, in the meantime, the real Aquaman had recovered and escaped Green Lantern's custody by-- wait for it-- sucker punching him in the mouth. How's that for ingenuity? Namor returned to Atlantis, where he was captured by his own treasonous subject, which is again more of an Aquaman thing.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Justice League of America #254 (9/86)

Despero: "'ve underestimated the sheer hatred I feel for you and your companions in the Justice League. Allow me to make myself clear."

Batman: "He is the Batman, the Darknight Detective, legend among legends, leader of the new Justice League of America. Not for the first time in his life, but perhaps for the last, he wonders what it will feel like to die." Standing before Despero as he bathed in the Flame of Py'tar, the Caped Crusader thought, "He's growing. No doubt about it... that flame... feeding his alien metabolism at an astonishing rate. Must be at least nine feet tall-- and he's coming out. This is it. All the places I've been, all the things I've done... it all comes down to this moment. Face-to-face with an alien being... in a battle I can't hope to win. No problem. I've been facing the same lousy odds all my life." The Batman proved a minor distraction, and was easily recaptured. However, he still claimed a victory of sorts. "Destroying me isn't enough for you. You won't be satisfied till I beg. I won't give you that satisfaction. So no matter what you do to me now, Despero... I win. For all your power, you're a loser. A pathetic little lo--AAAHHH!" The Batman was eventually freed and rejoined the battle.

Vixen: Revived her teammates and explained the gameplan. "The Flame's a nuclear plasma. Whatever enters it is either destroyed... or reborn... Now he's got the power to manipulate matter... like Firestorm, I guess, but on a greater scale. He's even created a duplicate of the Py'tar Flame to recharge himself with... like Green Lantern's power battery. He calls himself a god." Well, he was a god laid low when Mari rammed into the back of his knee with the force of a buffalo. "Woman, your death will be long and painful." Freed the Batman and joined him in fighting hoards of stone demons.

Elongated Man: Caught Vixen and Batman before they could be injured in a fall. Encircled by stone monstrosities of Despero's creation, followed his leader's order to "Fight like hell!" Not so much the order to target the flame, as Vixen stated they needed a bigger distraction, and Ralph chided, "If we win this one, Bats, you can slap our wrists. And if we don't win-- it won't much matter, will it?" Carried out the wounded Steel in the aftermath.

Steel: Hit the hardest by Despero's earthquake, Hank had to be helped to his feet by J'Onn J'Onzz and Gypsy, and propped up from then on. However, when Vibe belittled himself and the team in the event of a renewed assault, Steel, through clenched teeth and in obvious pain, set him straight. "Hey Vibe... if that's what you think you are, then that's all you'll ever be. Maybe we're not the best League that ever was... but we're here... and we've got a job to do. So let's do it." Steel got in one good punch to the base of Despero's spine, but nearly fell over after and had to be rescued by Gypsy. Was struck by a jet of magma and had his back scalded. Carried out by J'Onn and Ralph.

Gypsy: Stuck by Steel, even when he asked her to save herself. Used her chameleon powers to conceal them from demons and Despero. Became enraged when Despero burnt Steel. "Hiding isn't the only trick I know, you scaly-skinned-son-of-a-- CHEW ON THIS!" Despero knows he isn't being flung into a solar corona, but he can't fend off the illusory sensation that "sears his skin, worse than the Flame of Py'tar, eating him alive... and he screams!"

Martian Manhunter: The first to rise at Vixen beckoning. Saw the wisdom in Batman's plan. "Now, while Despero is occupied fending off the others, we strike... Martians weaken in the presence of fire, but I do not intend to approach the Flame of Py'tar, Vibe. Despero will have set defences to protect the flame... I will deal with them, while you deal with the flame. Your shockwave power may be the one force we have strong enough to disrupt the flame. If anything can."

Vibe: Wanted his team to bug out of Gotham and let the Navy bomb the city flat. "Look around you, man... look at us! I know what people been saying... I've got ears. We're a joke... What've we got here? A Chicano from Detroit, a big green bald guy, a human rubber band, a no-name teenage girl who can make herself disappear-- some trick-- an ex-fashion model, and a redheaded tin woodsman. Where're the power players, man? We're strictly second string! We can't do it. Despero wiped the rug with us once already. Next time, he'll kill us. Losers, that's all we are." His team refused to quit though, and he damned himself for joining them. Under the Manhunter's direction, Vibe waited for the opportune moment to strike at the flame, but had his own demons to fend off until the Batman gave him the order. Like a candle being blown out, the flame was no more, and without the outside power source Despero's body "consumes himself" into seeming nothingness.

"Finally-- it is over."
"Thanks to Vibe."
"Guess I'm not such a loser after all, huh, Bats?"
"You never were, in my book."

Zatanna: Still no time for subplots...

Sue Dibney: ...nor supporting characters.

The Creators: Luke McDonnell clearly relished drawing the Batman, and everyone kept busy, even if the ending was slightly anticlimactic.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "Big Green" -Vibe
"J'Onn" -Vixen
Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Aw-right. Does this mean we're buddies? Like, can we double date?"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Shakiest Shapeshifter In The West

So yesterday, I posted the outline for a really old bit of fan fiction that rattled around in my head for too many years. I inflicted this upon people as evidence of a series of posts I did last week at ...nurgh... about how not to write iconic characters. Since the germ of an idea infected my brain, I developed my own personal philosophy on how to correctly evolve a character beyond their initial conception, why it's important to keep like characters distinct, the fundamental need of adherence to an origin, and finally how all of them culminate in the essence of a character. Based on my own rules, the fanfic was a repeat violator, in addition to other shortcomings.

  1. From the beginning, the human guise of John Jones is assumed to protect the visiting Martian from the fear and hatred his alien form would inspire. This unreasoning, instinctual xenophobia is played against the Manhunter from Mars' inherent humanity to wonderful effect in most of his best stories. This metaphor is ruined if you can excuse any meritless suspicion directed at J'Onzz with "but weren't you implicated in the murder of Wonder Woman?" Also, the character has been consistently motivated by social altruism instilled in him by his native world. Turning him toward a drive for redemption alters the foundation of the character.
  2. Who's story is this, anyway? Superman's? Wonder Woman's? The Justice League's? Piggybacking has very much been necessary to the Martian Manhunter's continued existence since the 70's, but should that really be encouraged?
  3. Killing off the Martian Manhunter? Where's the shock value? Who would care?
  4. I like Wonder Woman and I like Martian Manhunter. That's all fine and dandy, but does that make it right for me to inextricably bind two largely unrelated characters? To this day, only the Wally West Flash has less of a canonical connection to the Manhunter character than Princess Diana.
  5. You cannot remove the fire weakness. Writers need to stop trying. Martians have been afraid of fire for over half a century, with the Martian Manhunter being the primary illustrator of its effects. It can be diminished, but never eradicated.
  6. The Martian Manhunter fails as a holy man. People buy super-hero comic books to see people hitting other people, unless "Superman Returns" is their favorite super-hero movie, which still makes them a minority audience. You can have a story in which the grizzled old gunfighter hangs up his shooting irons and turns to God, but that story always ends with either his backsliding or fading to black. Between his established history and the DeMatteis revamp, it seems like J'Onzz must be a being conflicted by his higher ideals and inability to live by them. That duality has not been played with very often, which is a mistake in my view.
  7. I hate the John Ostrander solo series, but other people loved it, and the fact remains it was produced for three years to great effort and expense. That must always be respected.
  8. The truism of Martian Manhunter as a "Superman level" hero has been given lip service for ages, but it just is not true. Look at the comics. It is part of the character's lot in life to bravely fail in the face of adversity more often than not, rather than to triumph against all odds. Beating the entire JLA would just tick off fans of those characters, making the "traitor" notion or any such villainous heel turn all the more appealing to fandom at large.
  9. There was a time I fretted about the Martian Manhunter's shapeshifting abilities. Shouldn't there be a "tell," like his hair being like a doll's or an unnatural sheen to his skin? With as many powers as he has, J'Onn J'Onzz shouldn't have the best example of any one of them, right? This doesn't bother me anymore, because I finally realized that regardless of how well the shapeshifting manifests physically, J'Onn J'Onzz is his own tell. No matter how he looks, he is always John Jones, and a detective would pick up on that immediately.

There was plenty more wrong with the story, but hopefully between this examination and the links it contained, I've made my point. If not, rest assured, the Martian dissection will continue in time...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Aborted Martian Manhunter Debacle

Alright, let's set the Wayback Machine to the early 90's, when the Superman died, the Batman was broken, and editor Ruben Diaz hinted at Wonder Woman getting the treatment next in an editorial column. Being a DC lemming at the time, I started picking up the Amazing Amazon's book, which blessedly turned out to be quite to my taste. In fact, it converted me into a die hard Wonder Woman fan who, after being disappointed by the lack of innovation that came with the Artemis switch, wanted to see something really sensational done with the character. This led to years of developing a multi-title mega-arc in the back of my mind, until I once again blessedly matured enough to realize what a horrific conception I'd concocted. I'd like to share a bit of it with you, to point out how misguided I was and to set up tomorrow's column. If fan fiction makes you cringe brother, I'm with you. Stop reading now, and tomorrow will be a better day...

Okay, first I'd have had to write a Superman title for long enough to insert a new villain and pull a "Dark Phoenix" on the Man of Tomorrow that would be seemingly reversed. Next, I'd have to be writing the Justice League title, in which Bloodwynd would temporarily join, only to be vaporized before the Martian Manhunter's eyes by some mystical threat (let's say Dreamslayer.) J'Onzz would take up his costume in tribute to the fallen hero, though it would slowly be altered down to a new Manhunter suit. Then I'd have to also be writing the Wonder Woman title, in which Diana would be forced through Doom's Doorway as part of a mission from the Gods, only to end up skewered by a sword in what amounted to a locked door mystery. Yes, the misogynistic rape imagery was intentional, and would become relevant in a later WW story.

Moving on, lots of doings led to the Martian Manhunter finally reading and projecting the last thoughts of Diana into the minds of the Justice League, revealing Superman as her killer. The Manhunter's profile would be elevated as he spearheaded a Superman Hunt, since Kal-El went fugitive to prove his innocence. All the Man of Steel found were doors closing in his face and visitations from ghosts, until he intuits that Diana's spirit was in fact the Martian Manhunter in disguise, as he was when he murdered the real thing. A vicious battle between Martian and Kryptonian suddenly went mild as J'Onn J'Onzz was taken into custody. Queen Hippolyta demanded blood for blood, so J'Onzz agreed to be immolated in a lake of fire.

That new major foe of Superman popped back up again, as part of a series of reversals in fortune that turned the surviving Justice League elite into mind-controlled villains. This forced the second tier heroes to step up and defend the DCU against a newly organized Secret Society of Super-Villains that turn the Earth into quite the grisly battlefield. This all occurs due to the will of a terrifically powerful cadre of puppet masters so fearsome, villainous elements feel they must join the remaining heroes in a last stand to save themselves. Both Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter turn up alive to help, but both are looked upon with suspicion and concern, binding seeming victim and victimizer. J'Onn J'Onzz would get a new series out of the deal though, teaming up with a Batman tipped off by newly-discovered "falsified accounts" in the League database (that would have represented the entire John Ostrander Martian Manhunter series) that his big green buddy had been framed. Solving the mystery of who was behind the conspiracy would have filled up the first year, not to mention the story where Dark Knight and Alien Atlas teamed-up to defeat a JLA once again possessed.

Acquitted, the Manhunter from Mars would have winded his way through more adventures, until settling as a Christlike teacher of Pale Martians tired of their people's warlike ways. In the meantime, J'Onzz had come to better understand and tap the powers innate to Martians, and overcome the weakness to fire. Through a telepathic Judas, this knowledge would have spread to all the Pales, forcing J'Onzz and his apostles to defend their adopted world against legions of Superman-level soldiers bent on conquest. In the end, the psychic manipulations of the now Supermartian Manhunter would return the flame vulnerability to all, including himself... or did he?

You might ask why I'm telling you all this nonsense, and its being nonsense is part of the point. I'd have to have pulled a Grant-Morrison-During-DC-One-Million just to attempt this byzantine terror logistically. Further, the results would have been similar to a lot of other now published storylines that just drained the life out of DC Comics with its gloom and muck. There was a time when Martian Manhunter was pegged as the perfect longtime Terra-style traitor of the JL of A by insiders, so I wanted to spring that trap early with a goal toward eventual redemption. However, it would still require a couple years worth of Martian Manhunter character assassination toward dubious ends. Finally, my understanding of all the characters has grown to the point that I now realize all this mess would have done was harmed the participants reputations and continued erroneous directions taken with them prior and since. This would have been most especially true of the Martian Manhunter-turned-Adam Warlock, ruining what makes the character unique and precious. As soon as you turn him into a jade Superman/Silver Surfer powerhouse, it's all over. But we'll get to that tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chase #2-3 (3-4/1998)

The Department of Extranormal Operations was a government agency with the mission to gather information on and sometimes exploit the powers of superhumans, with Cameron Chase being amongst their newest operatives at the time.

"A bright and early morning, just a few weeks ago. You were probably asleep. You were probably unaware that the world almost ended. Good thing someone else was on the ball."

"A routine space shuttle thermal experiment noticed abnormal heat production in the Andes last month. The D.E.O. got this picture from a KH-Series satellite shortly afterwards. Turns out an artificial intelligence called the Construct was setting up shop. The Construct was created, apparently, when the world's flow of information-- internet, traffic, cellular phone calls, radio, etc.-- became dense enough to take on intelligence of its own.

The JLA was informed through indirect channels. They chose to get involved last Wednesday morning. Turns out the Construct was less than a day away from a complete takeover of the world's computer networks when they defeated it. End of story, right?"

Not quite. Agent Chase was assigned a Suicide Squad by Amanda Waller to assure that Peruvian communist guerrillas, and later opportunistic Russians, would find nothing of the Construct remaining. Chase was betrayed by the super-villains in her charge, and the Russians, equipped with scavenged Rocket Red equipment, had their hardware infected by the Construct intelligence. The Peruvian base of the Construct was destroyed, but with considerable loose ends remaining.

The Martian Manhunter figured prominently into the JLA flashback images, seemingly assuming the front-and-center Superman position while the real thing, now possessed of a new look and electromagnetic powers, hung back. Of course, there may have been a more subtle reason for his prominence...

Story by D. Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III with Mick Gray and Lee Loughridge.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Justice League 1.5: In Blackest Night, Part 2 (11/26/01)

Disclaimer: Knowing full well there is a wealth of resources available to fans of the "Justice League" animated series, I have no intention of doing a bunch of dry story synopsis with the occasional new screen grab. I will chronicle, within reason, J'Onn J'Onzz's specific journey over the course of the series, but chiefly I will be reviewing the episodes through my own jaundiced perceptions.

One of my only objections to Stan Berkowitz's script was that it was Superman who suspected something underhanded about the goings on, and initiated an investigation. It seems painfully out of character for J'Onn to play Watson to Superman's Holmes.

Donning spacesuits on a nearby moon, Superman asks if J'Onzz sees anything wrong. "Where do I start? The loss of life-- the echoes of our own pasts." While this distraction seems in keeping with J'Onzz's history, it still seems off that it was the Man of Steel who deduced that the planet Stewart was accused of destroying must still exist, because that world's moon was still intact in its prior orbit. At least it was the Martian who discovered the machinery which facilitated the illusion. "When I was a child on Mars, we had small toys called 'illusiotrons.' They could project crude images over objects, and even empty space... The engineering principles appear to be the same... It would explain why this moon's orbit has remained intact." The pair were then attacked by a ship piloted by classic League villain Kanjar Ro, who was defeated and forced to reveal his role in the Manhunter plot against the Green Lantern Corps.

With Stewart cleared of charges, the Manhunter Cult launched an assault on the Corps base of operations, Oa, and their masters, the Guardians of the Universe. The League and a rinky half-dozen standing Corpsmen took on the Manhunters. J'Onn J'Onzz wasn't very visible, as the spotlight understandably gravitated toward Stewart. However, he had an impactful moment drawing fire intangibly, then passing into an Oan citadel, where a Manhunter had taken control of the planets defenses. The Martian wraith moved intangibly through a control panel, reached his hand into the Manhunter's brainpan, and ripped his cybernetic mind out with brutal efficiency. Stewart proved himself the greatest of the piddly Corpsman present in assuring victory over the Manhunters. As Stewart dismissed his fellows for assuming his guilt before trial, he walked up to J'Onn J'Onzz and company, who asked if he was all right. "You believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself... Let's go home."

It was nice when there were hints of the comic book Stewart in the cartoon. While the actual plot was lifted directly from a Hal Jordan story from the 70's (as were elements of the episodes that immediately preceded and followed,) Stewart's being accused of the inadvertent destruction of a planet echoed the same occurrence, with Stewart more genuinely at fault, in the 80's series "Cosmic Odyssey." Beyond a self-destructive guilt though, the two interpretations remained vastly different at this juncture. The resigned, thoughtful GL who rocked a classic 'fro couldn't have been more different from the gruff animated soldier, in a different uniform with a hi-top fade.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Justice League 1.4: In Blackest Night, Part 1 (11/19/01)

Disclaimer: Knowing full well there is a wealth of resources available to fans of the "Justice League" animated series, I have no intention of doing a bunch of dry story synopsis with the occasional new screen grab. I will chronicle, within reason, J'Onn J'Onzz's specific journey over the course of the series, but chiefly I will be reviewing the episodes through my own jaundiced perceptions.

For as long as there had been talk of a Justice League cartoon by the creators of the acclaimed 90's Batman and Superman animated series, Bruce Timm had made clear that John Stewart was his choice for the Green Lantern role. Having seen the character as he appeared in Justice League, I have a tough time finding a reason for this, beyond tokenism. You see, Stewart and Guy Gardner are my favorite GLs for vastly different reasons, and none are readily apparent in the cartoon version of the former. John started out as something of a social activist, but as he developed, it became clear Stewart was more concerned about himself than his fellow man. It isn't that he's in any way unheroic-- it's just that he prefers not to deal with most people. Once he was convinced he couldn't cure racism on Earth ethically by waving his ring at it, he chose to leave his home planet for the diversity and more general acceptance of other worlds. He routinely shacked up with non-African (and usually non-human) women, developed an existentialist viewpoint, and generally became the intellectual's Lantern of choice. The John Stewart of the cartoon, meanwhile, was a grating, myopic militarist who's adventures were most often terrestrial, to allow for his inclusion in the League. Plus, Phil LaMarr gave him that painfully affected voice, enhancing a sense of his being a stuffed shirt.

As for the episodes in review, on the League Satellite, J'Onn J'Onzz silently expressed disapproval of Flash's romantic overtures toward Hawkgirl...
"What? Don't you ever get lonely?"
"More than you could imagine."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to--"

Alarm sensors lit up. "It's an incursion." The pair watched as Manhunter droids with jet boots flew past their post toward the Earth below. "I'll notify the others." None were available, however, so the three present would have to do.

It's important to note at this point that while you'll see the name "Martian Manhunter" all over comics and merchandising, as Bruce Timm once noted, "we never really call him [the Martian Manhunter.] We just call him J’onn…" So despite my expectations at this early meeting between Manhunter and Manhunters, the issue never actually came up.

The cult had come to apprehend John Stewart, as he was being held accountable for the destruction of a populated world. J'Onn J'Onzz wanted them to back off, and well, they didn't. J'Onn J'Onzz took some nasty blasts from power batons, actually growling angrily at one point, before being thrown through some kid's window in Stewart's old hood. Superman joined the throwdown shortly before J'Onn recovered to squash a Manhunter robot into a car. The droid objected violently to this abuse of his person, so much that Flash spirited the Martian away. The static dissipated when Stewart arrived to turn himself over to Manhunter custody. Stewart's final wish was that the League not follow where he was headed.

J'Onn J'Onzz ignored that request, telepathically tracking Stewart to his otherworldly prison. "I sense turmoil. A heavy heart." The League followed J'Onzz's directions into a conflict with airships from the planetary defenses of Stewart's accusers. J'Onzz allowed a ship to pass through him, only to materialize and smash out the back end. He used variations on the same trick against armed guards on-world, aside from the one he put down psychically. The team were reunited with John Stewart at his trial, where he declared to his teammates his guilt.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Justice League Detroit: The Blog

Despite my many fanciful "anniversary" posts, the only ongoing appearances J'Onn J'Onzz made in the 1980's were in the "Detroit" and "International" era Leagues. I think most would agree that it wasn't until JLI that the Martian Manhunter came into has own as a modern age character, but that organization was so large, I would have to devote an entirely seperate blog to cover it. While I'm a fan of that period, I think they receive adequate fan coverage, so I'm looking forward to focusing more tightly on J'Onn J'Onzz when those issues comes up.

The Detroit League, on the other hand, consisted mostly of new characters with limited histories prior to or since the book's run, and almost all of them have inextricable ties to the Martian Manhunter. When I started synopsizing their adventures, it only made sense to cover each member, at least for the duration. Also, I genuinely care about a number of these characters to the point where I'd like to continue their coverage beyond appearance with the Manhunter from Mars. This has led me to start Justice League Detroit: The Blog. For now, it consists of posts from here and re-edited posts from my catch-all ...nurgh... blog. However, I've been re-scanning old images and adding new ones for weeks now, to improve quality here and to better reflect the expanded depiction of the full team there. I plan on making about a post a week, which means new material will inevitably make its way to the Detroit blog. I hope everyone with an interest in the team checks it out.

Also, I'll be out of town for a few days. I'm very pleased Blogger now have post-dated scheduling for posts, which will magically appear at midnight in my absence. However, if it takes a short while for any comments to appear or be responded to, you now know why.

"The blog of Gypsy, Vibe, Vixen, Steel II, and the Martian Manhunter; along with Aquaman, Batman, Commander Steel, Dale Gunn, Elongated Man, Sue Dibney and Zatanna. Covering all things related to the Detroit Era membership of the Justice League of America. A division of THE IDOL-HEAD OF DIABOLU: A Blog For J'Onn J'Onzz, the Manhunter from Mars."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Justice League of America #253 (8/86)

Martian Manhunter: "For him the nearby flames are more than a source of heat and smoky light; they are a threat as deadly to the Martian as hard radiation to an Earthman; but J'Onn J'Onzz forgets the fire, concerned instead with the threat to his comrades that looms before him."

Despero: "How gratifying to be remembered, J'Onn J'Onzz... especially by you. I hoped you'd come when you heard of my attack on Gotham City, and my capture of your leader, the Batman. As you see, I stand before you transformed. No longer am I the Despero you humiliated and imprisoned..." Origin told for the first time.

Elongated Man: Turned his body into a slingshot.

Steel: The most proactive member in the face of this horror. When Despero created a Winged Lorka of Kalanor (essentially a fire-breathing dragon) out of a skyscraper, Steel shoved a metal sign into its mouth. Next, he joined J'Onn J'Onzz and Ralph Dibney in launching a boulder through the dragon. The beast exploded into fragments, causing Despero tremendous pain through psychic feedback. In response, Despero ripped the Gotham street our heroes trod upon with a fiery explosion.

Vibe: Fretted and failed to make any lasting impact beyond briefly holding back the winged Loka.

Gypsy: Used her illusion powers to cause the Loka to believe it was underwater, buying her teammates the time to destroy it.

Batman: Taunted Despero to learn his origins and plans. "Despero needs the Flame of Py'tar to continuously re-create himself, Vixen. He told us as much himself. Without the flame, he no longer exists... If we can destroy the flame, here in this re-created temple... there's a... slim possibility... we might also destroy Despero." Freed himself and Mari.

Vixen: Spent most of the issue in bondage, but any negative karma was balanced out by having the Batman as her co-captive. In spite of herself, shivered as Despero rained havok on her team. Sent by Batman to explain the plan to their team while he remained to distract Despero. "New as I am to this, I probably wouldn't last ten seconds, and he knows it. Damn." Shocked to find her Detroit League lying deathly still in a roadside mound.

Zatanna: No time for subplots...

Sue Dibney: ...or supporting characters.

The Creators: Still bringing the game and career highs.

J’Onn J’Onzz’s Nicknames of the Issue: "Big Green" -Steel

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Gyp, you crazy? Haul your bottom outta here!"

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Misconception of John Jones

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, based on the influence of the male aggressive power fantasy found in pulp magazines imbued with a sense of social justice. They conceived and reconceived their basic idea for years before it was deemed ready for publication, and very soon, outside replication.

The Wonder Man was created by Will Eisner with express instruction to make him as much like Superman as possible. The character made one appearance before being sued out of existence. He was basically Superman, but he was blonde in a red costume whose power source was a ring. Seems to me Green Lantern filled that void, so no great loss. So too did Captain Marvel, as a longer-lived divergent take on the Man of Steel, because he had a distinctly appealing origin and identity from the first.

The Batman was also a deliberate, but in this case in-house approved, attempt to duplicate the success of Superman. Where Siegel and Shuster were a pair of nebbishes getting their jollies vicariously through a being of near godlike power, creator Bob Kane considered himself more of a dapper man about town. His mystery man would not be granted super powers, but instead be a self-made pinnacle of human mental and physical perfection, driven by a hatred of criminals. He would be dark where Superman was light, and in his off hours he would be a dapper man about town, instead of a nebbish.

Martian Manhunter was created by Joe Samachson and Joe Certa to be a telepathic super-hero and the heart and soul of the Justice League of America. Wait, that's not right. The name "Martian Manhunter" wasn't used until the character's third appearance, as the strip was titled "John Jones, Manhunter from Mars." Also, the JLofA wouldn't come into being for another half-decade, about the first time the character would interact with anyone not created for his solo strip. But hey, he was the first super-hero of the Silver Age of Comics, so that must have been what he was the soul of before the Justice League arrived.

Then again, I just stated at least two untruths. You see, the "Manhunter from Mars" first appeared over a year before "John Jones." Roh Kar, First Lawman of Mars, debuted in Batman #78 (Aug.-Sep. 1953) in a story credited to the aforementioned Bob Kane. Although he interacted with Batman and Robin in the story, Roh Kar was a cartoonishly depicted low sci-fi alien cop in pursuit of an escaped crook from his home planet. He wore what amounted to a uniform, and possessed the same abilities as the rest of his race, so how could you really consider the "Manhunter from Mars" a super-hero, much less the first of an heroic age? Like Captain Comet before him, wasn't the Manhunter from Mars just a pulp science-fantasy carryover?

Oops, I did it again. Batman was mostly created by Bill Finger with substantial contributions to his sphere from Jerry Robinson, while Bob Kane's main role was in cutting the deal and swiping liberally from The Shadow and The Black Bat. Also, while contractually obligated to credit the story to Kane, Roh Kar's debut was actually depicted by Edmond Hamilton, Lew Schwartz, and Charlie Paris, all under the editorial direction of Jack Schiff. Between them, the basic look and powers of the alien J'onn J'onzz were established, so shouldn't they be credited as the creators of the character?

Not so fast... Although the backstory of J'onn J'onzz was far-fetched, his adventures were mostly along the same lines as those seen in police shows of the Golden Age of Television. The alien forms partially derived from Lew Schwartz's designs were significantly altered by Joe Certa, not that this is ultimately relevant, since they barely appeared in the first couple years worth of "Manhunter" stories. John Jones was a feature about a plainclothes detective who was enhanced by extraterrestrial powers-- mostly another cop strip, but with a twist. Their Manhunter was a man in a blue suit and white fedora, which might also explain why the duds on his alien form were little more than an afterthought. In that sense, Joe Samachson and Joe Certa can be said to have created the second "Manhunter from Mars" in the same way Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the second "Human Torch." Very similar in some respects, wildly divergent in others.

Again though, to what end? John Jones was created to be a super-cop in a back-up strip divorced from any sort of super-hero universe. By rights, he should have joined Tommy Tommorrow and Roy Raymond in obscurity as the product of a bygone time. However, two other names now can be thrown into the hat as co-creators of the so-called "Martian Manhunter," Mort Weisinger and Julie Schwartz.

John Jones may have never been conceived to be a super-hero, but that is exactly what he became. Famed and feared Superman editor Mort Weisinger had developed the Martian Manhunter concept with Samachson before its publication, but regardless of whether this was before or after Batman #78, it is unlikely there ever would have been a Manhunter from Mars without him. You see, he had more than a slight hand in pushing for the 50's science-fiction adventures of the Batman and Robin, where Schiff had seemed just fine with the "dark knight detective" he had presided over with Whitney Ellsworth years prior. Further, it was Julie Schwartz who ushered in the Silver Age of Super-Hero Comics with the Flash and other revivals. It was this bandwagon onto which Jack Miller and Dave Wood jumped, these being the successors to Samachson for the thirteen years the strip ran after its credited co-creator's paltry 18 pages of work. Perhaps they deserve a co-creator credit as well?

The fact is, John Jones was little more than a footnote in comics until the mid-80's, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any record of who created the character prior to that point. In 1995, Les Daniels credited the script for "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel" to Mort Weisinger in his book "DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes." In 1997, Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs heavily revised their work on 1985's "The Comic Book Heroes: The First History of Modern Comic Books from the Silver Age to the Present." In the second edition, they credited Joe Samachson and Mort Weisinger, wherein in the first J'onn J'onzz wasn't notable enough to be bothered with overmuch. Only in recent years has DC itself begun to credit Samachson and Certa, but can anyone say for for sure to what degree that is accurate? After all, they have a standing policy against crediting editors as creators, even when there's reams of documentations as to their hands-on involvement.

So Martian Manhunter is a super-hero now, but he wasn't conceived as such by person or persons, not to mention degrees, entirely known. In this muddle of creators and concepts, is it any wonder the character has struggled for decades to maintain an audience? Who or what is the Martian Manhunter even supposed to be?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Slow Steady Death of J'Onn J'Onzz

Folks who've been reading this blog for a bit may recall that Michael Netzer was a bit surprised by my lack of commitment to his Quixotic crusade to save J'Onn J'Onzz. You see, while I love the character, I recognize the difficulties that come with him. He's difficult to write, too powerful, has yet to wear an appealing costume, and is only modestly popular at best. I'd much prefer he die in as convincing a manner as possible, despite it being entirely unlikely to stick, until a creator with a strong handle decides he must return. Otherwise, we end up with another confusing debacle like Bloodwynd or that last mini-series where he turned into an irritable Skrull vinyl fetishist to make him kewl.

Another vocal fan of the character with an objective viewpoint is Scipio at The Absorbascon. He's made a case for saving J'Onn, another against it, written a theme song for him, considered him the perfect hero to tie together the entire DC Universe, and campaigned for an archive edition.

On the other hand, he's always requesting the character be altered. He should become a black man, return to his former beat in Middleton or as noted here, take on a whole new supporting cast of muchly unrelated also-rans or just curl up and die. This sort of thing drives me nuts, because he knows enough about the character's earliest JLofA appearances to know his primary power in that contact was super-breath, and claims the Manhunter as a personal favorite. If he likes the character so much, why does he want to rework him so thoroughly?

I don't believe he understands the whole of the character, and it's rare to find anyone who does. I don't claim to myself, and I've made something of an academic study of the matter. I believe Scipio is a genuine fan of the character, in much the same manner I was when I started the "Rock of the JLA" site in the late 90's/early 00's. I would never start such a site today, as most of my affection for J'Onn was at that time derived from his interpretation as a member of the JLA between 1987-1997. I was defining the team through the character, and vice versa, rather than comprehending the Manhunter on his own terms. Also, I was using the site and a slice of the character's history to "prove" how great he was amongst all other heroes.

Some months back, I wrote Of Hook Hands and Idol-Heads about this fallacy in my thinking. Scipio can correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect he only recently was exposed to the Manhunter's solo adventures of the 50's through the "Showcase" volume. That collection was mostly written by Jack Miller and Dave Wood, two of the worst writers of the Silver Age. Scipio has an advantage over me regarding those stories, as I've made a point of not reading more than one story every few weeks, and he's gone through the whole thing. I remember how disillusioned I was when I started reading J'onn's 60's adventures by that same crew, and seeing how epically awful they were. This was Ed Wood level schlock, but with fewer charming idiosyncrasies. It initially made me want to disavow any connection between the Pre- & Post-Crisis incarnations of the character. However, as noted in "Hook Hands," I came to realize that denial was just a coping mechanism to avoid accepting the character, warts and all.

When I look at Scipio's proposed "Dynastic Centerpiece," all I see is a fan fiction square peg trying to force its way into the icosagon that is the entire, conflicting, exasperating whole of Martian Manhunter's being.

  • L-Ron was Max Lord's sidekick when Oberon was away, and only occasionally interacted with J'Onn.
  • Dubbilex is a Jack Kirby creature telepath that may have met J'Onn in passing during some crossover or another, but has only a surface resemblance in common.
  • Metamorpho served on multiple teams with the Manhunter, including the JLI and Outsiders, without there sharing nary a word.
  • Red Tornado usurped the Manhunter's role in the Justice League of America for over a decade and contributed to his extended exile from comics (late 60's-mid 80's.) If anything, they should be enemies, and in fact have fought on at least one occasion with no friendship to speak of.
  • Fire was never especially close to J'Onn, aside from a racist and/or apocryphal depiction of the character in one issue of John Ostrander's solo series.
  • You may note I refer the J'Onn J'Onzz heroic persona as just "Manhunter" throughout this text, because once the character became a super-hero in the 60's, that's how he was referred to. Every other Manhunter since the "Manhunter from Mars" was introduced in the 50's has stepped on his title, as he was in a sense the Silver Age incarnation of the only DC character to have had the name before him, Paul Kirk, a character retired long before the Golden Age ended. Scipio's suggestion to add the current bearer of the title into his orbit, Kate Spencer, fails to recognize her culpability in his "death." Dan Didio is a fan of the character after all, to such a degree he's sworn to keep her adventures in print somewhere for as long as he's at DC. With one "Manhunter" promised the title in perpetuity, J'Onn J'Onzz only dilutes "her" brand, right?
  • The Question, either incarnation, has no historical relevance to J'Onn J'Onzz whatsoever.
  • King Faraday, who's connection comes from one Elseworlds mini-series.
  • Miss Martian, who I'm not sure has ever met the Martian Manhunter.
That only leaves Snapper Carr, a legitimate if painful option, the certain standing of Gypsy, and the highly tenuous Reverb, who's only real claim is through a mostly undocumented relationship to Gypsy as a former teammate. Where is their a genuine connection to Manhunter history here? His resurrected parents and brother? Former police force associates Captain Harding, Diane Meade, or Lt. Saunders from the 50's? Sidekick/pet Zook from the 60's? Martian Frienemy Re's Eda from the 70's & former lover J'en from the 80's? Former love interest and teammate Vixen? Dr. Saul Erdel? Did they kill off Oberon, or is he a free agent again? Didn't he get along well with Parisian liaison Cartherine Colbert? His address book really blew up in the 90's, from Jemm & his fiance to Glenn Gammeron to Cameron Chase and more?

This is part of the reason J'Onn J'Onzz will soon be dead: People assuming there isn't more to the character and history than is commonly known, or defining him through jaundiced perspectives. I accept part of the blame for that, as I continue to fail in my mission with this blog. I have kept focusing on churning out story synopsis for set periods in sequence, or posting filler art to lighten up the history lesson/give myself a breather. I don't have enough character bios up. I haven't explored huge swaths of history. I've rarely explained what about the character drives me to make this effort, or what I've discovered about the character's nuances from this undertaking. It isn't enough to post information with philosophical interpretation and balanced recommendations. I've repeatedly stated that part of the point of this blog, really the lion's share when I think about it, is to influence and improve the Manhunter from Mars' representation and regard in future endeavors. Perhaps it's too little too late, But I intend to try harder. Regardless, there is a future for J'Onn J'Onzz, and I suppose it begins with an ending, but this too shall pass...